Pro-Pot Group Waits to Inhale

A pro-marijuana group will get a new day in court next year as it battles the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority over its dogged refusal to run the group’s ads in the Boston area’s transit system.

The 3-year-old case, launched by nonprofit Change the Climate in Greenfield, Mass., and the American Civil Liberties Union, enters a new phase in December, when briefs are due in the U.S. Court of Appeals following a lower-court ruling in July that found the MBTA did not have to run the group’s ads. “For the [MBTA] to reject these ads violates the First Amendment,” says Sarah Wunsch, an ACLU attorney.

One ad shows a teenage girl with the text: “Smoking pot is not cool, but we’re not stupid, ya know. Marijuana is not cocaine or heroin.” Another shows two police officers standing in front of an American flag and reads, “Police are too important, too valuable, too good to waste on arresting people for marijuana when real criminals are on the loose.” “We found that type of message inappropriate for our riding public,” says MBTA rep Lydia Rivera, who declined further comment on the matter since litigation is ongoing.

Joe White, Change the Climate’s executive director, says no other transit system rejected the ads. Indeed, a September posting of messages in Washington, D.C., sparked a mini-furor and condemnation from U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who chairs the House subcommittee on drug addiction.

“We will take publicity any way we can get it,” says White.